HomeIndustriesImec demonstrates advanced lithography to cut back CO2 emissions in chip factories

Imec demonstrates advanced lithography to cut back CO2 emissions in chip factories

Imec has introduced a brand new climate-friendly method for producing patterns on chips using lithography and etching for advanced chip factories.

Leuven, Belgium-based Imec said the technology could reduce the carbon footprint of lithography and etching for advanced technology nodes for chip factories.

Photolithography is a crucial a part of the manufacturing technique of integrated circuits or semiconductor chips. It uses light to transfer a pattern to a substrate, typically a silicon wafer, almost like printing a design on the surface of a chip.

Imec said it will probably significantly reduce the carbon footprint related to lithography and etching processes in semiconductor manufacturing. The announcement was made through the Advanced Lithography + Patterning Conference 2024, where Imec presented sustainable alternatives and practices to cut back direct CO2 emissions in these critical processes.

Imec research shows that lithography and etching processes account for over 40% of direct emissions within the Advanced Logic Node Scope 1 and Scope 2 categories. Semiconductor devices manufactured in 2021 generated a carbon equivalent footprint of about 175 megatons, corresponding to the annual emissions of about 30 million people.

Imec's alternatives include ways to simplify the dry etching processes widely utilized in chip manufacturing. The goal is to cut back the environmental impact of those processes while maintaining high-quality semiconductor manufacturing.

Virtual Fab model from Imec.netzero

Imec.netzero, a virtual fab model developed as a part of Imec's Sustainable Semiconductor Technologies and Systems (SSTS) program, played a vital role in demonstrating the impact on emissions. Imec presented the contribution of lithography and etching processes to Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and emphasized the necessity for revolutionary solutions.

Imec suggests directions for future patterning, including ultra-thin resists and underlayers, minimal passivation, and low etching process temperatures. A high NA compatible etching process for metal lines was demonstrated, showing a major reduction in process gas emissions of roughly 94%.

Overcoming the challenges of lithography

Imec reveals a brand new option to create tiny patterns on chips.

Challenges in lithography include the emissions related to power generation. Engineers have sought to make use of greener energy, reduce multiple patterning steps, minimize photoresist dose, and increase scanner throughput for energy efficiency.

“Sustainability is very important to Imec and we’re pleased to see it proceed to realize traction on the SPIE Advanced Lithography and Patterning conference,” Emily Gallagher, a senior technical officer at Imec, said in a press release. “An informal search of papers shows a promising trend: in 2018 there have been only a limited variety of papers mentioning sustainability, and now, just six years later, the conference expects 45 papers on sustainability, 4 of them from Imec . Last yr
Global climate records have been broken, so it is crucial that all of us take motion as organizations and as individuals. Imec has welcomed this measure in any respect levels, including our research.”

Imec's initiatives in process innovation and sustainability reflect a broader industry shift toward environmentally friendly semiconductor manufacturing.


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